August is a time of rebirth in the NFL. It's also a time of high anxiety. Nearly half the players in training camp will lose their jobs before Week 1 of the regular season.
This knowledge hangs over every practice. If any struggling player forgets about it, there is a coach there to remind him.
Three weeks into training camp, here are some notable veterans who could use a strong closing push to make their team's roster in September:
A.J. Jenkins, San Francisco 49ers wide receiver
It's hard to wrap my mind around this one, but last year's first-round draft pick is on the bubble. The Sacramento Bee did not have Jenkins making the team in a recent piece. Comcast SportsNet Bay Area put Jenkins in a group of players, like Lavelle Hawkins and Chuck Jacobs, who haven't done enough to earn a roster spot.
Jenkins' practice snaps recently were reduced, and he wasn't one of the nine wide receivers to have a catch at Monday's practice. Yet I still have a hard time imagining players like Marlon Moore or Kassim Osgood making the team over Jenkins.
Coach Jim Harbaugh and general manager Trent Baalke aren't afraid to be different, but cutting a first-round pick after one season almost is unheard of. (This topic inspired a Twitter conversation about comparable examples in NFL history. The most recent one we come up with: 1996 Washington Redskins first-round pick Andre Johnson and the 1991 No. 15 overall pick, Huey Richardson of the Pittsburgh Steelers, who was dumped for a seventh-round pick in a trade after only one season.)
This is the type of company Jenkins could join.
Robert Meachem, San Diego Chargers wide receiver
Meachem's body reportedly is breaking down. The speed he showed as a member of the New Orleans Saints is gone, and he never was a versatile receiver. Injuries to receivers Danario Alexander and Malcom Floyd might not be enough to save Meachem, despite $5 million guaranteed coming his way this season.
Mason Crosby, Green Bay Packers kicker
Ryan Williams, Arizona Cardinals running back
This is a sad story. The No. 38 overall pick in the 2011 NFL Draft was one of our favorite running backs in his class. Williams looked promising before rupturing his patella tendon during his rookie season. He just can't stay healthy, and the Cardinals are running out of patience. He needs to get back on the field by the Cardinals' third preseason game if he wants to make the roster.
J'Marcus Webb, Chicago Bears offensive tackle
Just like two of the players above, Webb plays for a first-time NFL head coach. And new bosses want new players. Webb has lived off his potential for a while, but his potential slip out of the starting lineup could take him off the roster. Another potential surprise in Chicago: Keep an eye on linebacker D.J. Williams if he can't get healthy.
Joe McKnight, New York Jets running back
If the bizarre tweets and media interaction doesn't get McKnight cut, his mysterious injury problems will. Here's a recap from the New York Daily News:
"In just two-and-a-half weeks, McKnight has failed his conditioning test because of an anxiety issue, according to Rex Ryan; boasted about his 3.3% body fat after dealing with dehydration; suffered a migraine; been arrested; suffered an unspecified head injury; told reporters he's 'not getting into that right now' seven times in one interview; and had difficulty walking across a soccer field."
That was before McKnight challenged a fan to a fight on Twitter. McKnight still is on the team because he's the active NFL leader in kick-return average. On top of that, the Jets still need help at running back, so McKnight has time to turn it around.
Nnamdi Asomugha, San Francisco 49ers cornerback
Asomugha's solid first preseason game should help his chances, but it's not hard to do the math. He was no higher than No. 4 on the depth chart before the 49ers signed Eric Wright. Nothing is guaranteed for the former highest-paid cornerback in the league.